Sunday, July 27, 2008

Finding the right schemes for your team

With college football gearing up, I came across an interesting article about what's going on down in Auburn, Alabama, where Auburn's head coach Tommy Tuberville has dumped his conservative offense in favor of a spread offense.

Keep in mind that the Tigers went 13-0 and won a National Title under Tuberville in 2004 using the "old" offense. In fact, in nine seasons at Auburn, Tuberville's teams have won five SEC division titles. And if you know anything about SEC football, that's not an easy task.

So why the drastic change? According to Coach Tuberville, he made the change for two reasons:

First, despite winning nine games last season, his old two-back offense wasn't scoring enough points. Second, the new spread offense is more attractive to high school kids he's recruiting.

Trying to determine what's best for your team is always a challenge for a coaching staff. In Golden State, we went into the 2002 training camp with the idea that we'd play a slow-tempo game. That's because in the couple of seasons prior to our arrival, the Warriors had pushed the ball, but with little success. In fact, the season before we arrived, the club had won just 21 games.

So we went through the first two weeks of camp talking about having patience offensively and the value of good shot selection. The idea was that we had to develop a different mind-set.

But one night after a low-scoring exhibition game against Seattle in Mizzoula, Montana, Hank Egan, one of our assistants, and I had a frank discussion about the team's make-up. The club, we decided, was simply better-suited to run.

So that night we wrote down a goal that we shared with the team the next morning: Lead the NBA in scoring. [We fell just short of the goal, finishing third in scoring, averaging 105.6 ppg.]

That team was young and not adept at executing a half-court offense. But they could really run and score in the open floor. So we implemented a new offense we called the "Open Offense." It was a version of a passing game with some basic "Princeton" elements, such as dribble-handoffs, dribble at back doors, on-post feeds, splits action, etc. It was designed to give the guys some structure while allowing them to play to their strengths.

For Coach Tuberville, it will be interesting to see if the players he recruited for his old offense are suited for his new one. But it's another example of a coach who is looking ahead and is willing to take a risk in order to reach a goal.